“Courage is going into the fire area when everybody else is leaving it,” he said.
“Courage is the crews who were prepared to put their lives on the line for their community.
“Courageous are the members who searched for survivors but only found victims.”
In an emotional ceremony where more than 150 people gathered at Bridges Restaurant in Hurstbridge, CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson presented the citation to 34 members and an individual citation for courage to former brigade Captain, David McGahy.
“On 7 February 2009, Arthurs Creek Fire Brigade performed many courageous acts when they successfully defended many properties and helped to warn and evacuate numerous members of the Strathewen community in the most extreme circumstances created by the “Black Saturday” bushfires. Following the fires, brigade members took on the responsibility of finding fatalities and providing support to the community. In doing so, members demonstrated to the highest level, the spirit of CFA. While the safety and wellbeing of firefighters is of paramount importance to CFA, extraordinary actions do take place. This was one such occasion.”
A ribbon and badge was also given to Arthur Creek and Strathewen firefighter Joe Shepherd who passed away during the 2009 fires. His citation was presented to Joe’s wife, Dini, to much applause and what Michael described as a moving moment.
Michael said the brigade felt honoured to have received the citation and would wear the ribbon with pride.
“I am sure if you asked any individual firefighter they would say they did nothing on the day except their duty to the community,” he said.
“We at Arthurs Creek are a close-knit group, we look after each other in tight spots.
“We are a family of friends brought closer by our joint actions on Black Saturday and the following six weeks.”
He added that Arthurs Creek is a strong and united brigade.
“However, we were helped in this by some standout people and this is the first opportunity we had to get some of them together,” he said.
Michael said this included The Good Guys, who donated six caravans to firefighters who had lost their homes; 3AW who assisted in the donation of five replacement vehicles; Trevor Boyd who negotiated a donation of a brigade car through Leighton Holding; The Bendigo Bank who supplied water tanks, funded a community get together and the book Footsteps in the Ash by Jim Asher and Max Gudgeon, in which proceeds from sales were donated to Arthurs Creek and St Andrews Fire Brigades and; O’Donnell Griffin who supplied generators to the community and installed them. He also thanked Executive Director of Operational Training and Volunteerism Lex de Man, former Group Officer Rod Holland, fire station manager Adrian Hemm and neighbouring brigades.
Michael also paid respects to his former captain, David McGahy, who led Arthurs Creek Fire Brigade during the fires.
“We look up to him, as a person we can all trust,” Michael said.
“It took a huge amount of courage to lead us through Black Saturday - I cannot think of a more worthy recipient of the Chief Officer Citation for Courage.”
David said while he appreciated being recognised through an individual citation, he felt more proud of the entire brigade receiving the honour.
“It is really nice to be recognised like this but I’m pretty chuffed for the brigade,” he said.
“You only have your authority because other people have put you there and I couldn’t have performed my role if it wasn’t for the support of brigade members and the community at large.”
At Sunday’s ceremony, a number of medals were also presented for service ranging from five to 25 years.
Citation for Courage recipients:
- Andrew Alford
- Ben Apted
- Lachie Bakewell
- Geoff Bichard
- Darren Bradshaw
- Lindsay Brain
- Michael Chapman
- Helen C ocks
- Pat Corr
- Callum Donoghue
- Rod Earps
- Matthew Gravette
- Craig Jefferies
- Peter Jenkinson
- Keith Jephcott
- Caleb Jephcott
- Rowland Kelly
- Paul McGahy
- David McGahy
- Dale Murphy
- Ken Neilson
- Gordon Norris
- Chuck O'Brien
- Tom Pohl
- Callum Pohl
- Geoff Raftery
- Peter Reader
- Warren Rees
- Geoff Schmidt
- Joe Shepherd (award accepted by Dini Shepherd)
- Hamid Soltani
- Wesley Stecher
- Barrie Tully
- Tim Whitefield
Photos by Caitlin Ogilvie